Differentiation in populations of Hordeum spontaneum along a gradient of environmental productivity and predictability: Life history and local adaptation
Reciprocal introduction of seeds and seedlings of wild barley, Hordeum spontaneum, originating in four different environments of Israel was used to: (1) test for local adaptation, (2) make inferences about environmental effects on life-history and reproductive traits, and (3) identify trait combinations with recognizable 'strategies'. The four populations examined represented the following environments: (1) desert - low productivity and predictability, drought stress; (2) semi-steppe batha - moderate productivity and predictability; (3) grassland - high productivity and predictability; and (4) mountain - high productivity and predictability but with severe frost stress. Significant genotype-by-environment interactions were observed for yield and reproductive biomass, seedling biomass and percentage germinated and survived seeds, suggesting local ecotype adaptation. Increasing productivity and predictability of environment in respect to rainfall, without concomitant frost stress, was found to select for high reproductive biomass and large seeds, a high fraction of germinating seeds and high vigour of seedlings. The optimal strategy changes with increasing productivity and predictability and involves a trade-off between seed size and number, with reduced yield but increased seed mass, consistent with competition selection (or K-selection sensu MacArthur & Wilson (1967)) type. No specific life-history adaptations to predictable frost stress were detected for the mountain ecotype, but there was higher survival of seedlings in their indigenous (mountain) environment compared with other ecotypes. The latter appears to be a physiological adaptation to frost, which is consistent with selection for stress tolerance (or S-selection sensu Grime (1977)) type. The other stress factor, drought, which is very unpredictable in deserts, was associated with high seed dormancy, small seed size and low vigour of seedlings, but relatively high yield, which is consistent with a stress-escape bet-hedging strategy. © 2002 The Linnean Society of London.